Knowing they have the chance to keep a hold on a home quarterfinal spot in Super Rugby Pacific, the Chiefs are preparing for a must-win game with the Rebels in Hamilton on Sunday.

Coach Clayton McMillan knows their fate is in their hands. But he is also conscious that he needs to have all parts of the Chiefs machine ticking over. That has resulted in some significant personnel changes for the game.

Leaving out lock Tupou Vaa'i, halfback Cortez Ratima, centre Alex Nankivell, first five-eighths Bryn Gatland and wing Jonah Lowe, with No8 Pita Gus Sowakula on the bench, is a calculated risk.

McMillan said they needed to give other players in the squad time in the middle to cover any eventualities in the playoffs' phase.

There was some method in the madness, he said.

"That's not to underestimate the next three games.

"The Rebels, the Force and the Drua have all demonstrated on their day they can trouble the best teams, so we fully respect that, but it has to be balanced with, for us, an ability to put out a fairly consistent side, but rotate two or three players in or out," he said.

At least in the inside backs, two All Blacks return from injuries. Halfback Brad Weber missed three weeks with a neck injury while first five-eighths Josh Ioane had five weeks out with a rib injury.

"You can't beat experience. But the flip side of not having those guys is that we're actually building experience by giving those young guys an opportunity. It's a bit of a double-edged sword, but, in a perfect world, you want your best players out on the field," he said.



The pair had been able to train over the past two weeks and would be prepared.

However, they will have to do without All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick for a little longer as they wanted his broken thumb to heal.

"We're not going to take any chances with him until he's fully healed," McMillan said.

By the time Retallick returned, he would be wound-up like a spring which would not be bad for the Chiefs, he said.

"We really want to be playing a home quarterfinal, and we feel like we need to win three games to achieve that," he said.

That came down to respecting every opponent and not being swayed by the Rebels' 28-71 loss to the Blues last week would be important.

"They're one of those teams that are better than what their recent scorelines have reflected. They've got ability, they've got a good maul. They've got some Wallabies sprinkled throughout their team, so they'll be a challenge," he said.